“She did what men did, at a time when women were supposed to be delicate creatures, and she did it all with an easy, open joy. They called her the “I Don’t Care Girl.” Ten years later they would have called her a flapper, but flappers weren’t invented yet.” And that’s not the only way Mabel Normand was ahead of her time, as Jon Boorstin relates; her career spanned the years when one-reelers evolved into feature films and personalities into movie stars, and Normand was along, and game, for all of it. Also at the LA Review, Charles Taylor at least brings a fresh wrinkle to the anti-Meryl Streep brickbats, diagnosing her current output as her “Sacred Monster stage,” “a higher-brow version of the kind of bald scenery chewing that Joan Crawford and Susan Hayward specialized in. But unlike those paragons of masochism, Streep doesn’t suffer or go nuts.”
“Godard told the story of when he and Jean-Pierre Gorin, working together sometime in the early nineteen-seventies, attempted an experiment: to imitate a single shot from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. He explained that they didn’t manage to do it—that the framing and the angle completely escaped them. I’m not surprised—in exactly the same way as I doubt whether Eisenstein, had he lived longer, could have copied perfectly a shot of Godard’s.” Richard Brody convincingly argues that since all films are in a sense documentaries—of performance styles, of “inner sense[s] of bearing”—the notion of a truly shot-for-shot remake is a folly never to be achieved.
An excerpt from Steven Awalt’s new book Steven Spielberg and Duel: The Making of a Film Career explains just how the tyro director—still mostly written off on the Universal lot as Sheinberg’s Folly—found out about and got the job helming the Matheson adaptation. (His secretary and talking a good game, backed up with a rough cut of his yet-untelevised Columbo premiere, respectively.)
“They agreed it was to be set in Thatcher’s Britain (she appeared as a vampire), with a dinosaur skeleton by way of a proscenium arch; the good girl was arrayed as Lady Di and the brothel madam as the queen mum. The opera company Teatro Comunale di Firenze were proud of the just-post-punk British mise-en-scene, with black bin bags heaped onstage and a phoney Hockney on a wall, but there was an onstage confrontation with management over the permissible length for giant phalluses.” Ah, theater in the ‘80s; Veronica Horwell looks back at the (relatively few) stage productions for which Derek Jarman acted as designer or director.
Solicited for a blurb to Kristin Thompson’s book Storytelling in the New Hollywood, Harold Ramis complied; but also sent along a thoughtful letter detailing where the art and business he practiced differed from the “theoretical model.”
“When the school photographer arrived to take our annual class picture, Alec threw paint on him, broke a tambourine over his head, and kicked him in the groin, claiming that the photographer had invaded his personal space and had also shot him from the wrong side.” Paul Rudnick relays the progress report for Massapequa Elementary preschooler Alec Baldwin, age 5.
“And eventually all this, plus his own work, was taken away, destroyed, made impossible for him to continue pursuing in that way. And when you read The World of Yesterday you just see how all the things he invested his life in, this world that he prefers to call the world of security, this life that had been growing more and more refined and free that’s so meaningful to him, is just obliterated.” Wes Anderson discusses with George Prochnik one of the key inspirations for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Austrian author Stefan Zweig.
“It’s the little idiosyncrasies like this that Wes loves—it’s all part of his aesthetic. On the one hand he’s a perfectionist; on the other hand he doesn’t want anything to look machine-made, or digitally produced in any way.” While we’re on the topic, graphic designer Annie Atkins explains her work on Grand Budapest with the Creative Review blog, a talk marvelously illustrated with some of the money, menus, and official documents she created for the film. Via Adam Cook.
“I fell in working with Gus Van Sant, and he likes to think of me as an action guy, and Stephen Sommers, who directed The Mummy likes to think of me as the art-house guy. And I think Gus likes to think I bring a Hollywood film sensibility to his work, while Stephen likes to think that I bring an art-house sensibility to his.” In addition to mainstream Hollywood and independent filmmakers (including Kelly Reichardt), sound designer Leslie Schatz has done acclaimed work in documentaries as well. All get covered in his interview with Anthony Kaufman.
“Waiting Room (1978) is a photograph of a very roughly made representation of a room, like a doctor’s waiting room, but there is something that could be read as a movie screen on the wall. And then in front of that, not in the photograph but as a physical model, there is a very small movie projector aimed at the screen in the photograph. So there’s a kind of narrative hinted at there—the movie will not be shown because the whole thing is still.” Michael Snow talks with Alan Licht about his witty, conceptual self-reflexive photographs. Prompted by his exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where a few more examples can be seen in a slideshow. Via David Hudson.
Photographer Kaupo Kikkas has some lovely photographs that seem an excerpt from a Ballard novel or forgotten Herzog documentary: an abandoned outdoor cinema in the Egyptian desert, rows of seats waiting for an audience, with nothing to contemplate but the surrounding sand and stone. Via Huh Magazine.
This week Vivian Kubrick took to her twitter account, till now mostly retweets of rants against government secrecy and anti-psychiatric meds (because Scientology, you see), and released some photos of family and of a childhood spent on movie sets: as a toddler hugging chimps from 2001; an adolescent every inch the avant la lettre Goth leaning back in the Korova Milk Bar; the young director of Making the Shining at her Steenbeck, in a shot taken by her proud father. Via Paul Gallagher.
Due diligence has led projectionist Paul Clipson to keep one of the more esoteric film journals, a collection of simple but vivid sketches of movie frames containing “cigarette burn” changeover markings.
Will Schofield presents another gallery of delightfully deco movie posters from ‘20s and ‘30s Swedish artists.
One more look at The Grand Budapest Hotel, this time the title character itself, a delightful miniature courtesy of production designer Adam Stockhausen.
Vera Chytilová, the “first lady of Czech cinema” and one of the most important directors of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s, has left us at age 85. She went to the head of the class with her freewheeling 1966 film Daisies but, unlike her famous colleague Milos Forman and Ivan Passer, remained in Czechoslovakia after the Russian invasion that cracked down on the freedoms and was barred from making films for almost a decade. She resumed filmmaking in 1977 with The Apple Game and barely slowed down for the next thirty years. More from The Prague Post and, of course, David Hudson collects the essential essays at Keyframe Daily.
Australian actress Wendy Hughes starred some of the key films of the New Australian Cinema of the seventies and eighties, including Philip Noyce’s Newsfront (1978), Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career (1979), and Paul Cox’s Lonely Hearts (1982) and My First Wife (1984). She won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress for Careful, He Might Hear You (1983) and was nominated for an additional six awards. She was also very busy on Australian TV and stage, and had a recurring role as a coroner in the stateside TV show Homicide: Life on the Streets. She passed away at the age of 61 from cancer. Matthew Westwood recalls her life and legacy for The Australian.
French director Jean-Louis Bertuccelli, best known for the film Ramparts of Clay (1971), an Oscar nominee in the foreign language film category, passed away at age 71. He is also the father of Julie Bertuccelli, who has become an acclaimed director in her own right. Rhonda Richford for The Hollywood Reporter.
Scott Kalvert, a music video director who made his feature debut with The Basketball Diaries in 1995, died at age 49 of possible suicide. More from Aaron Couch at Hollywood Reporter.
The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.